The Messenger Online

Why Gislingham?

How did the name first come about? Studies of place names suggest that “ham” at the end
of the name denotes ‘a village or group of houses’, and ‘ing’ denotes ‘the people of’. It is
thought that these endings date from early Saxon period. Gislingham thus translates as, ‘the
village of the people of Gysela’.
So, who were Gysela and his people? It is thought that Vikings in the late 9 th century landed
on the Suffolk coast and sailed up the River Waveney settling between Carlton Colville and
Kessingland at what is now Gisleham. I.e. ‘the village of Gysela’. Some time later members
of the group sailed down the River Waveney and up the River Dove to this site.

Were Gysela’s people the first to settle in this place? Probably not, as people tended to settle along river valleys. This area was a centre of activity as early as the New Stone Age some 6,000 years ago. There were signs of increasing human activity through the Bronze and Iron ages and about 1800 years ago, while under Roman rule, there was a ‘named’ landowner at nearby Thornham Magna. Roman coins and potter have been found in Gislingham as well as Saxon pottery and this indicates that this place has long been a settlement. However, it is Gysela who gave this village its name and the reason that a Viking ship appears on our village sign.